ACT News

Doctor took leftover anaesthetic for personal use: tribunal

A Canberra doctor who used leftover opioid anaesthetic from operations at Calvary Hospital has been found to have engaged in professional misconduct.

Calvary Hospital anaesthetics registrar Dr Michael Adams was using up to 300 micrograms of fentanyl, a powerful and addictive opiate analgesic, every day by September 2013.

He waited until the end of his shifts at Calvary to use what was left from operations on his patients.

Suspicions were raised when colleagues saw him take a 500-microgram vial of fentanyl at 8.20am in October 2013, for an operation not scheduled until after midday, and which was estimated to require only 150 to 250 micrograms.

His colleagues questioned him about it and he left the operating theatre, taking the vial with him. 

The incident was reported to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and Dr Adams, who trained in Cardiff, was told he could not work unsupervised. 

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He went to the coast, and his urine was tested and cleared of drugs by the time he got back, four days after the incident.

Dr Adams was interviewed about the drugs and said he had used some on his patient and discarded the rest. 

He was told he would need to have his blood, urine, and hair tested. The blood and urine came back clear, but he refused to have the hair test.

The next month he attended for the test, but it could not be done because his pubic and underarm hair was waxed and he had a crew cut.

Dr Adams admitted his relapse into drug use to staff at Calvary Hospital, Canberra Hospital, and to his general practitioner.

He was suspended and the Medical Board of Australia took the case to the the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which published its finding of professional misconduct on Tuesday. 

The decision revealed previous conduct by Dr Adams involving improper drug use at the hospital.

He used propofol, another anaesthetic, in early 2010, occasionally while still at Calvary, and at home.

He was found by an anaesthetics registrar in a drugged state in Calvary's registrar's bedroom in May 2010. 

On Tuesday the tribunal severely restricted Dr Adams' ability to practice medicine. It also ordered that on his return to medical practice he not be allowed to work in any role involving anaesthesia for two years.  

During that time he must always be supervised by someone who knows his history and he must have his work reviewed fortnightly.

Dr Adams will be prevented from prescribing certain types of medication, and is not to work more than 40 hours a week or overnight shifts. 

He has been ordered to remain abstinent of drugs and alcohol for two years, and submit himself to urine, breath and hair screening. 

The tribunal also told Dr Adams he must participate in a support and monitoring group for doctors, and go regularly to a treating general practitioner, psychiatrist, and psychologist. 

He must also not self-prescribe or prescribe for close family members.

He will face further restrictions once the two year period is up.

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